DALLAS — Building a new and bigger Parkland Memorial Hospital is a project as massive — and even more expensive — than the new Cowboys Stadium.
The $1.3 billion medical center expansion, however, is taking shape on a very small scale, one room at a time.
Parkland is mocking-up life-size hospital rooms in a quiet office building near the hospital to avoid costly mistakes. Hundreds of people are racing to create a new Parkland by the end of 2014.
Walter Jones is in charge of the project. In an effort to create the best possible environment for patients and staff, Jones' team is building drywall and plywood mock-ups of every type of room.
"They can also understand how well the room works a whole lot better than they can just by looking at drawings and models," he explained.
Patient rooms at the new facility will account for about half the space — about a million square feet.
Everything at the new Parkland will be bigger, but the planning here focuses on the tiniest details, like determining the best place to put computer monitors and electrical outlets.
"And we can test it in this environment before it's built permanently," Jones said.
Parkland staffers help evaluate what designs will work — and what won't.
For example, in the existing hospital, Dale Talley — longtime director of Woman and Infant Care — showed how the intensive care bays for babies house up to 12 infants.
"You want time with your baby, with your husband and wife to be together, and that's difficult when you have somebody that is this close," Talley said. "Privacy is not one of the options."
In the new Parkland, there will be separate rooms for every baby and their parents.
"This is the baby's room for whatever equipment it needs. And this, over here, is the family space, which there is none of in the old hospital," Talley said.
In the coming months, designers will continue to add detail to these mock-ups, working out more kinks by installing real fixtures, furniture, surfaces, and color.
It may seem like extra work and extra expense, but that's not how they see it here.
"We can build here wrong for much, much less money — or no money — and very little risk," Jones said.